2inappropriate to take a significantly more interventionist stance towards private landlordism or, indeed,towards the supply or demand for owner occupied properties.
If we think about housing policy through the lens of Peter Hall‟s
three levels of policy, the documentembodies changes of levels for existing policy instruments (level 1) and it proposes changes to theinstruments used (level 2). But it does not propose changes in terms of the underlying goals or aspirationsof policy (level 3). And one further preliminary observation is appropriate. While the document is shot through with level 1policy changes of various types, the direction of change is not always clear. So, for the sake of argument, when the Government states posi
tively that they are going to spend £Xmill in a particular area they don‟t
mention that the previous government
was spending £4Xmill. So we‟re talk
ing about a 75% cut inspending. That is understandable from a political perspective. It is also understandable in the broadercontext of fiscal consolidation. We could, after all, be looking at a 100% cut. But when we are seeking toassess whether the sorts of interventions proposed are going to address problems or are, in fact, likely tobe a step backwards in terms of support then this becomes significant.
The housing strategy comprises six sections covering: increasing supply; social housing reform; theprivate rented sector; empty homes; the quality of housing experience and support; and quality,sustainability and design.In terms of substance, much of the housing strategy document is, in fact, simply bringing together in oneplace a range of policies and initiatives that have already been announced. The proportion of its proposalsthat are genuinely new is relatively small. And it is hard to argue that placing this collection of proposalsbetween two covers transforms them into a coherent strategy. Some might argue that, on the contrary, itmakes it easier to see the gaps and the joins. The many of the initiatives and issues included in the document could be examined at length. Much of what it covers can be summarised into a word: incentives. It is about curbing perverse incentives andcreating incentives to act in ways that further desired political and social objectives. If there is anything
“radical and unashamedly ambitious” about the document it is the rejection of top
-down planning andthe belief that localising decision-
making will deliver better outcomes. But this isn‟t new, it is a theme
the Coalition‟s thinking since the beginning. The contradictions between the document‟s claims that it isputting in place “long
changes to the way in which we plan for housing” (emphasis added)
and the likely realities of localised decision making are not explored. And nor would you expect them tobe. The document presents some sensible, credible and welcome policies that are seeking to address issuesthat are widely recognised as problematic. But it has several more problematic aspects. And some of theproblematic aspects are given more prominence. Some of these problematic components of the housing agenda have already
been discussed extensively. Indeed, I‟ve posted quite regular
ly on my blog aboutissues such as the affordable housing approach, changes to social housing tenure, the reform of the localhousing allowance, and the criminalisation of squatting. In the remainder of this document I want tofocus on some of the newer aspects of the agenda, while noting some of the better established issues inpassing.
4. Increasing housing supply
The chapter on housing supply dominates the strategy document. It contains much of what could beclaimed to be new. And because this topic links most clearly to the broader economy and levels of macroeconomic activity it was always likely to be most newsworthy. The most high profile proposal is the Government
‟s intention to participate in a mortgage
indemnity scheme in order to allow first time buyers access to 95% mortgages for the purchase of a new build